Garda recognises efforts of ethnic community leaders to promote better engagement
2017-07-05 15:29:50 -
Opinion
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The Integration Question with Princess Pamela Toyin

The Garda has begun to recognise the efforts of leaders within Ireland’s ethnic minority communities in promoting better relations between the police and the public – an area in which there has been growing mistrust as of late.

“I absolutely believe that the police alone cannot address this appropriately,” said Pat Leahy. “However, together with parents, pastors and others, we have an opportunity to create something really special that can have an effect.”

The assistant commissioner for the Dublin metropolitan region and head of the Garda’s community engagement and public safety unit was speaking at a recent event to welcome the involvement of immigrant community leaders in directing young people away from anti-social behaviour and grow a safer environment for all.

Explaining the motivation for this initiative, Leahy said information gleaned from social media “indicated that there was a plan for large groups of children to congregate in town with a potential for anti-social behaviour. We reached out to community leaders and pastors, and they responded immediately.”
He noted that migrant communities “have unique challenges in starting new lives and creating new futures for themselves and their children, and we must identify and understand their needs in order to address those needs.” 

Chief Superintendent Karl Heller added: “I believe by working closely together we can learn from each other and build on trust that An Garda Síochána can recognise and acknowledge with the ultimate aim of jointly working to promote community safety.”

Among those community leaders recognised for their efforts was Lesado Elias Nathan, a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) living in Ireland since 2009.

Nathan’s appeal to youths is not to allow anyone to shift their focus away from their future ambitions in life and career, and see value in helping their communities prosper. He also promised gardaí in attendance that his and other leaders’ doors are always open for crossing the bridge of engagement between communities and authorities.

It’s a bridge that has been weakened by corruption allegations, a lack of minority representation within the Garda ranks, and especially issues surrounding child welfare – highlighted in recent days by an RTÉ report on children who are removed from their families under Section 12 legislation on suspicion of emotional or physical abuse.

“I hope that communities individually and collectively feel confident to approach members of An Garda Síochána with any issues,” said Nathan. 
Leahy added that while pluralist concepts of nationality and ethnicity can exist comfortably in the minds of younger generations, there is still work to be done with the parents, pastors, community representatives who lead their communities to promote stronger engagement.

Others recognised on the day included Pastor Tunde Oke, head of RCCG Ireland; Jagan Reddy Muttumula, a business consultant and executive committee member of the Confederation of Indian Communities in Ireland; Pastor Lucki Dedeku, and RCCG pastor representing the Fingal Ethnic Network (Fen); Dotun Adegbesan, chair of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (Nido) Ireland; and Richard Oyeniyi Oyewole, an activist and founder/CEO of the African/Irish Sports Association, which supports cultural and social activities in Ireland. 

Fears over the activities of youth street gangs are a primary concern to Oyewole, popularly known as ‘Gaddafi’ for his stern ways in dealing with unruly youths. He believes it is not sufficient to leave the work to gardaí and community leaders alone, and advises parents to put in more effort to steer their children in the right direction. 

In conversations after the event, one key issue identified that could help the Garda and communities alike in promoting more positive relations was the involvement of mothers. Leahy said from his experience, children of all ages will confide in their mothers and tell them things they tell nobody else. 

“So mothers end up being the vessel of their children’s thoughts, emotions, fears stories and other things that affect their lives,” he said. “I think women are essential to the success of this approach so we must provide a platform for mothers to engage with us in an appropriate way collaboratively as a group and/or in confidence as individuals.”

Princess Pamela Toyin has gained experience since the mid 1980s working in various fields and interacting with people of different tribes and ethnicity. With her passion for diversity, she is propelled to report a diverse range of issues that facilitate intercultural dialogue and integration, which can change social, economic, and cultural stereotypes, and believes there are lessons to be learned from everyone. Talk to her on +353 (0)87 417 9640 or email echoesmediainternational@gmail.com
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